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Big Ten Notebook: Bielema, Wisconsin ready for season to begin

BY SETH ROBERTS | AUGUST 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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One more day. Just one more day.

In one more day, the college-football season will officially begin — and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said he’ll be honored to be in the spotlight when he leads his No. 11 Badgers onto the field against UNLV in front of a national prime-time TV audience on ESPN.

“We’re excited to start off the season and very fortunate to be the first game of college football on Thursday night,” he said in a teleconference on Tuesday. “I know our kids have been looking forward to this day for a long time.”

The Badgers aren’t the only ones anxious to get the season started — it has been a long, eventful off-season in Big Ten country.

Ohio State’s tattoo scandal made headlines and resulted in the resignation of Jim Tressel, one of the most recognizable coaches in the nation.

Iowa’s outbreak of rhabdomyolysis also grabbed national attention, though no major members of the Hawkeye program left Iowa City because of the incident.

But not everything was negative — Nebraska’s entry to the conference made the league arguably one of the best in the country.

“I’m a former player in this league, coach in this league, an assistant, a coordinator, and now a head coach, so I have a lot of pride in this league and what’s being said about it,” said Bielema, who played at Iowa in the late-80s, early ’90s. “The reputation is getting stronger with the addition of Nebraska … any time you have four of the six winningest programs in football history [in the same conference] brings value.”

Now that all the off-season excitement is in the rearview mirror, Bielema said he’s trying to get used to the idea that his Badgers make up one of the top teams in the nation. Wisconsin is ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press preseason poll and is a general favorite to win the Big Ten for the second year in a row.

And while Wisconsin won at least nine games in four of Bielema’s first five seasons in Madison, the coach said the sheer amount of attention his team is getting this year is unprecedented.

“Not in my six years … at Wisconsin, or in my coaching career,” he said. “It’s fun — it’s a sign of respect.”

Buckeyes to use QB by committee

After the much-publicized departure of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, first-year Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell will ask both redshirt senior Joe Bauserman and true freshman Braxton Miller to share the load of the Buckeye offense.

“I talked with both those guys and said, ‘Hey — we’ve got to be able to handle this thing internally as well as possible, and we need both of you,’ ” Fickell said on Tuesday. “We’re excited about letting those guys compete, seeing how they compete, what they do with their opportunities, and continuing to evaluate as we go along.

“They understand that they’re always being evaluated, but the important thing for us is how we handle it internally.”

Is Persa strong?

Northwestern gunslinger Dan Persa might not be ready for the Wildcats’ season-opener at Boston College on Saturday, head coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

Persa ruptured his Achilles tendon in the closing moments of Northwestern’s 21-17 win over Iowa last year, had surgery after the game, and has rehabbed ever since.

Fitzgerald listed Persa as his No. 1 quarterback on his most recent depth chart, but when asked on Tuesday if he would actually start, the sixth-year coach didn’t give a clear answer.

“It’s a 12- to 14-month rehab, and we’re sitting at a little over 10 months right now, if my math is correct,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s way ahead of schedule; he’s really close to being 100 percent, and if and when he is, then he’ll start. I listed him as the starter for a reason, and we’ll see how things pan out as the week goes on.”


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